Oil pulling has its roots in Ayurveda, a holistic medicine system that first appeared in Indian Vedic texts roughly 3,000 to 5,000 years ago.
It can be found in the Shalakya Tantra, or “system of surgery,” section of the texts, where it overviews how swishing specific oils in one’s mouth (like coconut or sesame) can improve dental health and even cure around 30 different diseases. (1)
This belief stems from the idea in Ayurveda that each section of the tongue is connected to a different organ in the body. In this view, when you purify and cleanse your mouth and tongue, you also help heal organs like the kidneys, liver, heart, small intestines, stomach, colon, and spine.
Oil pulling can have a significant effect on dental and oral health. This includes helping to cure and prevent things like bad breath, gingivitis, cavities, and more.
Read on to discover the benefits of oil pulling and how to do it.
Benefits of Oil Pulling
1. Oil Pulling Banishes Bad Breath
Bad breath, or “halitosis,” occurs due to a buildup of bad bacteria and/or food particles in your mouth. Unfortunately, most people immediately reach for a bottle of mouthwash containing an array of chemicals to keep this odor under control during the day.
Luckily, oil pulling can provide a better, more natural alternative. Research shows that oil pulling can be as effective as mouthwash when it comes to getting rid of bad breath. Much of this is due to the antibacterial and antimicrobial properties of the most commonly used oils to oil pull, which are coconut and sesame.
One study showed that oil pulling worked just as well as chlorhexidine, an ingredient found in mouthwash, at killing bad breath-causing organisms and reducing plaque. (2)
2. Oil Pulling Prevents Cavities
Cavities are caused by food particles and bacteria finding their way into small holes in our teeth, where they get stuck, begin to rot, and eventually cause tooth decay.
While brushing and flossing are key proper dental care, oil pulling can take this a step further. This is especially true when you choose coconut oil as your oil to swish with, as it contains lauric and caprylic acid, which are strong antimicrobials. (3) This can help kill cavity-causing bacteria before they can fester, while also helping to loosen plaque.
3. Oil Pulling Prevents Gingivitis
Gingivitis is inflammation of your gums caused by a buildup of bad bacteria around your gum line. Oil pulling can help kill the microorganisms that cause plaque while also reducing the inflammation associated with it.
One study showed that after oil pulling with sesame oil for just 10 days, participants with gingivitis experienced significantly less plaque buildup and gingivitis symptoms. (4)
4. Oil Pulling Reduces Plaque Buildup
As you may have guessed, oil pulling helps breakdown and reduce plaque buildup in your mouth and around your teeth. This helps prevent diseases like gingivitis from occurring, and also gives you a line of defense against developing cavities.
One study showed a significant decrease in plaque buildup and formation in adolescents after only 7 to 30 days of swishing with coconut oil. Researchers believe this effect comes from coconut oil’s antimicrobial lauric acid content. (5)
5. Kills Microorganisms
Oil pulling can also help kill specific microorganisms that can harm your teeth. One of these is Streptococcus mutans, which likes to hang around in plaque and saliva and eventually cause tooth decay.
One study showed that oil pulling was able to reduce the amount of S. mutans in the plaque and saliva of children after just one week, performing just as well as a popular mouthwash ingredient. (6)
6. Oil Pulling May Have Detoxing Benefits
While studies on oil pulling are mostly focused on dental health, it doesn’t hurt to take a look at the claims made by Ayurvedic practitioners on the whole-body benefits of oil pulling.
Specifically, it is claimed that oil pulling helps pull toxins like heavy metals and bacteria out of the body through the mouth and tongue, which can help cure ailments like acne, headaches, allergies, poor vision, and more. While there are no studies stating these claims are factual, there may be some truth to oil pulling having an indirect, positive effect on other conditions by being able to reduce bad bacteria and inflammation. In addition, the use of sesame oil for detoxifying purposes is backed by studies, giving some merit to the idea that it is a cleansing oil that can draw out impurities. (7)
7. Oil Pulling Relieves Sore Throat
Oil pulling’s antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects are not only great for killing bad bacteria on your teeth and tongue, but also your throat.
Which Oil Is Best for Oil Pulling?
To begin, you want to make sure you purchase a high quality, cold-pressed, organic virgin oil with no harmful additives to oil pull with. Typically, coconut oil is the best oil to use for oil pulling due to its antibacterial qualities and easy absorption. However, you can also consider using sesame oil. We suggest trying both and determining which works best for you.
How to Do Oil Pulling
Step 1: In the morning (before drinking or eating anything, or brushing your teeth), gently swish 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil in your mouth for 10 to 20 minutes. If your jaw begins to hurt, try not to swish too hard. If you find you can’t swish for a full 10 minutes, simply work up to it by increasing a minute each day.
Optional: Add 2 to 3 drops of lemon or peppermint essential oil for added antibacterial benefits.
Step 2: When you’re done swishing, spit the oil in the trash (NOT the sink – this can clog the pipes).
Step 3: Brush your teeth and continue your morning routine as usual. Done!
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Will oil pulling affect my fillings?
According to the Coconut Oil Research Center, oil pulling will not affect fillings unless they are already loose due to an infection or improper placement. (9)
2. Do I have to oil pull first thing in the morning?
You don’t have to oil pull in the morning, but it is considered the best time to do so in order to get deep into your gums without any food particles getting in the way.
3. Are there any side effects of oil pulling?
Some people report excess mucous or sinus drainage after oil pulling, which is most likely due to the swishing motion of your mouth. In addition, the first few times you oil pull, you might feel your gag reflex kick in, but this can be prevented by using less oil until you’re more comfortable.
4. How long until I see an effect?
It typically takes about a week to see and feel differences in your teeth and mouth.
5. How often should I oil pull?
If you can oil pull every day, great! If not, aim for at least three days a week.
The Bottom Line
Oil pulling is an excellent complement to your daily dental routine. Not to mention, it’s free from harsh chemicals and requires an ingredient already found in your kitchen. Give this ancient technique a try to naturally fight bad bacteria and keep your teeth healthy!